Food + Germs = Cavities
So often, we emphasize the need to keep teeth clean by mentioning cavities. Yet to children, the notion of a cavity is far too abstract. Here’s an activity that helps them understand what a cavity is and how it forms.
Place a bowl in the center of a small group. Explain that the bowl is representative of a mouth. We know that germs live in the mouth (sprinkle black pepper into the bowl). When we eat sugary food (pour baking soda into the bowl), the germs begin eating away at the food (pour vinegar into the bowl). Ask students What is happening? Explain that the germs not only eat the food but also our teeth. Ask What happens if we add more sugary food? (Pour more baking soda and vinegar.)
Explain: The tooth becomes weaker. Cavities form where the teeth acquire holes. When sweet foods mix with the germs in our mouth, an acid attack forms holes on the teeth. If we don’t stop the acid attacks, the result is bigger holes and cavities.
Demonstrate where cavities form on teeth using an oral hygiene set.
Going to the Dentist
Emphasis: Dramatic Play
As you’re well aware, children love playing pretend. Set up a corner of the room to serve as the dentist’s office. Provide folders and clipboards for the students to track patient notes. Allow them to use transitional brushes to practice brushing stuffed animals’ and dolls‘ teeth. Decorate the space with a Lost A Tooth seat pocket, teeth cutouts, and images of children smiling. Offer child-safe mirrors for them to examine their own teeth.
Provide a quiet space for children to look at and share books. Alternately, the teacher can read these during circle time. Some titles to include:
- Little Rabbit’s Loose Tooth by Lucy Bate
- The Crocodile and the Dentist by Taro Gom
- Timothy Tiger’s Terrible Toothache by Jan Wahl
Brushing and Flossing
Emphasis: Fine Motor
To help children learn the skills of brushing and flossing, provide them with an upside down egg carton, narrow ribbon, and an unused toothbrush. With the humps of the carton facing up, explain that the carton represents teeth. Teach children to brush and floss the egg carton teeth.
Emphasis: Music and Movement
Ask your students to think about what a cavity might do. Allow them some time to share with a neighbor. Suggest that the children follow your movements as you tell the story of a cavity:
- “Once upon a time there was a little baby tooth hiding under gums.” Move into a crouching position.
- “The little tooth started to grow.” Slowly rise.
- “It grew and grew until it poked out of the gums and stood tall.” Stand upright.
- “The tooth learned some new skills. It learned to chew food.” Jump up and down.
- “It learned to grind food as well.” Wiggle back and forth.
- “But no one took care of the little tooth by brushing or flossing it.” Slump shoulders and frown.
- “Food kept sticking to the tooth.” Pat body.
- “Oh no! Something bad started to happen. The germs from the food started to eat the tooth!” Pretend to bite.
- “And a hole started to form.” Make a ring with your arms.
- “Thankfully, a superhero came to the rescue… Super Toothbrush!” Pretend to brush the children. If another adult is available, you can embellish this by having them in costume.
- “Yeah! The tooth was safe!” Cheer and sit down.
“The germs were trying to eat a hole in the tooth. This hole was called a cavity. Why did this happen? What are some ways we can prevent cavities?”